European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 118, Issue 7, pp 1385–1395 | Cite as

Muscle quality characteristics of muscles in the thigh, upper arm and lower back in elderly men and women

  • Akito Yoshiko
  • Takashi Kaji
  • Hiroki Sugiyama
  • Teruhiko Koike
  • Yoshiharu Oshida
  • Hiroshi Akima
Original Article



The ratio of fat within skeletal muscle is an important parameter that is indicative of muscle quality, and can be assessed using ultrasonography to measure echo intensity (EI). Muscle EI indicates muscle strength and risk of physical dysfunction; however, this observation was determined following examinations of only selected muscle. The purpose of this study was to investigate the EI characteristics of muscles in several regions in elderly men and women, using physical function tests and serum cholesterol levels.


Twenty-two men and women (age 78 ± 8 years) participated in this study. The EIs were calculated from rectus femoris (RF), biceps femoris (BF) triceps brachii (TB) and multifidus (MF) using B-mode transverse ultrasound images. Seven functional tests (isometric knee-extension peak torque, functional reach, sit-to-stand, 5-m normal/maximal speed walking, handgrip strength and timed up-and-go) and blood lipid components including adipocytokines were measured in all participants.


A statistically significant correlation between EI of the RF, TB and BF was observed (r = 0.46–0.50, P < 0.05), but not between EI of the MF and that of other muscles. EI of muscles of the limbs, which was averaged EI for RF, TB and BF, was negatively correlated with leptin levels (adjusted R2 = 0.27, P < 0.01), and EI of the MF was correlated with muscle mass and performance in the timed up-and-go test (adjusted R2 = 0.61, P < 0.01).


These results suggest that EI might be influenced by specific parameters depending on the location of the muscle.


Muscle quality Echo intensity Thigh Arm Lower back Leptin Elderly men Elderly women 



Activities of daily living


Biceps femoris


Body mass index


Computed tomography


Echo intensity


Intermuscular fat


Intramuscular fat




Magnetic resonance imaging


Magnetic resonance spectroscopy


Quadriceps femoris


Rectus femoris


Triceps brachii


Timed up-and-go



This work was supported in part by the Meiji Yasuda Life Foundation of Health and Welfare. The authors gratefully thank the volunteers for their participation, as well as the training coordinators, Mr. Takashi Fukatsu, Ms. Naomi Ishimizu, Ms. Noriko Masuda and Mr. Rikinari Kuroki of the Kawai Rehabilitation Center, Gifu, Japan, and the measurement support staff for Drs. Akira Saito and Ryosuke Ando, Ms. Aya Tomita, Ms. Madoka Ogawa, and Mr. Shohei Kondo at Nagoya University, Nagoya, Japan.

Author contributions

Study concept and design: AY, TK, HS, HA. Performed the experiments and acquisition of data: AY, HS. Analysis and interpretation of the data: AY, HA. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: AY, HA. Wrote the paper: AY, HA. Critical revision: AY, TK, TK, YO, HA.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of MedicineNagoya UniversityNagoyaJapan
  2. 2.Kajinoki Medical ClinicKaniJapan
  3. 3.Research Center of Health, Physical Fitness and SportsNagoya UniversityNagoyaJapan
  4. 4.Graduate School of Education and Human DevelopmentNagoya UniversityNagoyaJapan

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